Bandits kill three, spark tension in Kerio Valley village

The peace crusaders were shot dead by suspected bandits who had laid an ambush. [iStockphoto]

A meeting aimed at returning goats stolen in the troubled Kerio Valley turned deadly when three peace crusaders were shot dead on Friday.

The fallen peace ambassadors, including a teacher, were killed metres away from the venue of a meeting intended to maintain cohesion following months of calm in the area.

Police identified the slain peace champions as Eliud Kipkeu, 32, Patrick Komen, 61, and Joseph Suter, 43.

It was supposed to be a day to celebrate milestones in the search for peace in the valley, which had been ravaged by banditry attacks for years.

On the fateful day, four out of several goats stolen by suspected bandits a week ago in parts of Endo, Marakwet East, were recovered thanks to teams of peace ambassadors from the two counties.

The livestock thieves had taken the stolen goats to the neighbouring Tiaty.

Normally, livestock stolen during banditry attacks disappear, never to be traced.

According to individuals privy to the animal recovery ceremony that turned ugly, a team of peace ambassadors from both Marakwet East and Tiaty areas had gathered on the banks of River Kerio – the border of the two sub-counties.

An unknown number of the recovered goats had been returned to their owners by local youth, peace animators, as well as locals from the two areas who were walking into the meeting where a planned session to restore calm had been scheduled.

Suddenly, however, three elders who were riding to the venue on a motorcycle were shot dead by suspected bandits who had laid an ambush.

Peace ambassadors and elders at the venue fled towards Tiaty after the shooting.

Lawrence Mutwol, the Chief Officer for Peace in Elgeyo Marakwet, who was en route to the meeting as a guest yesterday, said the purpose of the gathering was to discuss ways of recovering six more missing goats.

Mutwol mentioned that the fallen peace ambassadors had been at the forefront of uniting warring communities in the Kerio Valley.

He said the Friday attack was a chilling message from individuals who did not want lasting peace in the Kerio Valley.

“As a peace ambassador, the killing of our dedicated peace crusaders was not an inter-community attack. There was no animosity between the Marakwet and Pokot communities because the Marakwet peace ambassadors who fled to Tiaty were safe. It was about criminal elements who don’t want peace,” Mutwol said.

John Muchiri, the Marakwet East sub-county police commander, while confirming the deaths, said the three slain men were community peace committee members from Chesongoch, Endo ward.

Muchiri added that the police were yet to identify suspects behind the Friday killings. He said a multi-agency team comprising the police, the General Service Unit, the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, and the Rapid Deployment Unit has been deployed to the area. 

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